A ruthless insurgency is not the sole and only problem facing Afghanistan. There are other problems as well that must be addressed to stabilize the country and make a permanent transition to modernity and development, and to consolidate democracy. A decade has elapsed since the country embarked on a joint journey with international community to get rid of terrorists and lunatic fringes that would trample basic human rights of residents of this land and pose a serious threat to the world security.
But Afghan people are yet to see a country of their dream, one that is stable, peaceful, democratic and developed. Such a country is becoming more and more elusive day by day. New challenges are emerging to derail the process of democratic consolidation. President Karzai has plunged the country into a situation of crisis and dead end by putting too much attention to flawed reconciliation with a stubborn enemy that wants nothing less than the overturn of democratic system and process.
The ongoing stalemate and deteriorating security situation has provided a food for thought for all political parties, groups and figures. They are now trying to provide a way out. National Front of Afghanistan, a new major alliance that has been formed in a bid and with the aim to break the stalemated situation and move the country to the second phase of democratic process, stands out phenomenally. The formation of National Front of Afghanistan was declared formally on Friday, November 11, 2011 in a huge gathering of Jihadi leaders, members of parliament, senators, party activists and university students.
Ahamd Zia Massoud, the former first vice president and a senior member of Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan (or Islamic Society of Afghanistan), Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of Wahdat Islami Mardum (or People's Unity Party of Afghanistan), General Abdur Rashid Dostum, the founder and leader of Junbesh Milli Afghanistan (or the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan), Haji Aman Khairi a strong tribal leader from the Eastern Afghanistan are the key founders of the Front. The three above-mentioned political parties enjoy a vast popular support and have played important role in the past presidential and parliamentary elections by mobilizing their supporters to effectively participate in the electoral process and obtaining considerable number of seats.
Afghanistan has been a land of fragile political coalitions and groupings. So formation of any political coalition or alliance is often greeted by politicians, observers and people with a high level of skepticism. However, what makes the newly formed National Front different from its predecessors and other political groups and parties is the fact that it came into being with a set of clear political agenda. In the past, coalitions and alliances would be formed around election campaign and focus on just winning elections. But it is established between elections and in response to the crises plaguing the country.
More importantly National Front of Afghanistan is based on clear and ambitious goals of working for decentralization of power structure, changing electoral system to pave the way for emergence and competition of strong political parties and returning power to Afghan people in the provinces, districts, communities and villages to choose and elect their respective provincial governors. Declaration of the National Front of Afghanistan reads," The decentralization of power as the significant modality to promote democracy, broad-based participation, empowerment of provincial councils and elected governors, therefore is the core aim of the National Front."
In other place, the declaration says," The National Front of Afghanistan favors a change in the Electoral System from Single Non-transferable Vote system to a nationally accepted variant of the Proportional Representation system with equal opportunities for both independent candidates and political parties."
Realization of these stated goals would contribute to replacing the present "contractualism between state and individual tribal elders" with contract between state and individual citizens who would gather around strong political parties, which will function more effectively to aggregate public demands and translate them into clear policies. In fact, these political agenda, if implemented, would move the country to the next phase of strengthening and institutionalizing of democratic institutions, brining about more transparency and accountability by making government officials at different levels directly and indirectly answerable and accountable to Afghan people in the capital, provinces, districts and villages.
International community has often categorically admitted to have committed a big mistake by supporting a strong presidential system in Afghanistan. This strong unitary system has led to centralization of power in the hand of the president and promoted tribal affiliations instead of devolving power and contributing to emergence of strong political parties. As a result the government is run on the basis of personal interests and even whims, not clearly articulated written policies. The National Front of Afghanistan seems to be redressing this mistake, and realization of its political agenda, which are well-articulated, would fill the vacuum of rule of policies and put an end to the rule of personal interests and whims.
The Front has announced to boycott the traditional Loya Jirga, slated to be held on November 16, saying that it is extra-constitutional and extra-legal and undermines elected bodies such as parliament, which is constitutionally mandated to "ratify international treaties and agreements, or abrogate membership of Afghanistan in them." Over the last years, president Karzai has never hesitated to create parallel bodies extra-legally. The traditional Loya Jirga is not the one provided for in the constitution.
The idea to hold such a Jirga runs counter to the effort for institutionalizing democratic institutions in the country. Holding a traditional Loya Jirga to decide about high national interests, in fact, perpetuates a traditional mechanism that has not been working well throughout the history of Afghanistan. It also provides pretext for the insurgent groups to question the government as the Taliban in their leaflets have said that those who would participate in the Loya Jirga are supporters of the government, not real representatives of the people. Unfortunately, Afghan government has not made any effort to hold district councils' elections as provided for in the constitution. Instead, it has been attempting to weaken the parliament.
President Karzai has said that the traditional Loya Jirga would decide about the long-term strategic partnership between Afghanistan and some major powers, particularly the United States of America. It should be said that no one with common sense denies the need and importance of presence of international forces in Afghanistan and long-term partnership between Afghanistan and its international allies.
But it is equally important to say that such relations and the presence of international community must be managed through truly representative organs such as parliament and provincial councils, not a traditional forum attended by hand-picks of the president or those appointed by the president. This moves Afghanistan back to traditional mechanisms.
Afghanistan cannot afford to return to non-democratic processes, structures and institutions. It is a plural society and this diversity can be managed only through democratic institutions. While it is important for Afghanistan to reach to some sort of long-term strategic agreement with developed and powerful countries that can help the country politically and economically, it is equally important to make this effort through elected bodies so that they find their place and status in this traditional and tribal society.